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High Levels of Pesticides, Flame Retardants and Mercury Found in Columbia Basin Lamprey

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Portland, OR- High levels of pesticides, flame retardants, and mercury in Pacific lamprey may be contributing to their overall decline in the Columbia River Basin. Those are the latest findings out of recent research by the U.S. Geological Survey and the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission that was published recently in the journal Environmental Pollution.

Constituting the largest data set of contaminants found in Pacific lamprey habitat and tissue, the research found that concentrations of some flame retardants and pesticides were several hundred times higher in larval and juvenile lamprey tissues than in the surrounding sediments. Using samples from the Umatilla River basin, Willamette River basin, the Yakima River basin, and other Columbia River tributaries, this new study provides insight into the bioaccumulation of toxics in lamprey and their likely impacts on lamprey development from larvae to adults.

“The levels of contaminants we are seeing in larval lamprey have caused developmental problems in salmonids in other studies,” said Dr. Elena Nilsen, principal investigator on the study. “That is concerning to us.”

Pacific lamprey are integral to ecosystem health. They provide valuable subsistence resources to tribal communities, bring important marine nutrients into freshwater areas, and serve as a buffer against the predation of juvenile salmon and steelhead by sea lions, terns, and other predators by providing an alternate food source.

“We can no longer ignore the role of water quality in the health of our fish populations and our communities,” said Carlos Smith, chairman for the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission and tribal council member for the Warm Springs Tribe. “These recent findings only highlight the urgency to clean up our rivers and streams.”

The research was the result of a multiagency effort. Numerous tribes and state and federal entities contributed to the work.

About CRITFC. The Portland-based Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission is the technical support and coordinating agency for fishery management policies of the Columbia River Basin’s four treaty tribes: the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation of Oregon, the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation and the Nez Perce Tribe.

CRITFC, formed in 1977, employs biologists, other scientists, public information specialists, policy analysts and administrators who work in fisheries research and analyses, advocacy, planning and coordination, harvest control and law enforcement.

Public Information

Sara Thompson
CRITFC Media Contact
(503) 238-3567

Elena Nilsen
US Geological Survey Contact
(503) 251-3277

Non-media Inquiries
700 NE Multnomah, Suite 1200
Portland, OR 97232
(503) 238-0667